Welsh National Opera Don Giovanni review



Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome *****

So often in opera performances, one or more of the many ingredients – singing, playing, acting, staging, lighting, costumes, directing, to name but some – don't quite hit the mark, even if others prove to be outstanding; this was not the case with WNO's revival of their 2011 production of Mozart's 'Don Giovanni' where every element delivered, resulting in a hugely satisfying evening's entertainment.

Mozart's moralistic tale – at times comedic, at times sinister, but always ambiguous in how it plays with our empathy for Giovanni – is sympathetically told through the vision of director John Caird. The striking set design by John Napier – monolithic walls that move in sections to focus the drama – prove surprisingly versatile at assisting with the storytelling, including the use of multiple doors which are ideal for this opera where Giovanni, and his unfortunate servant Leporello when they swap identities, spend a lot of time evading capture. David Hersey's lighting design is all dark in hue, with just sparing daubes of warmer 'candle light' which, like the staging design, focus you in on the drama as it unfolds.

Ukranian baritone Andrei Kymach captured the complexity of Giovanni's character, laying on his charm with a trowel to seduce the coquettish Zerlina (Harriet Eyley highly engaging throughout), yet also appropriately callous in his violent encounter with Masetto (a fully committed James Atkinson). Simon Bailey delivered the role of long-suffering Leporello with bags of character, but also warmth in both voice and charm. Sarah Tynan's portrayal of Elvira was suitably aggrieved, whilst James Platt's Commendatore had gravitas and stature.

Soprano Marina Monzó and tenor Trystan Llŷr Griffiths were a delightful pairing for Donna Anna and loyal fiancée Don Ottavio. Their voices bended beautifully and, whether as part of a duet, trio or quartet, they sang as one; Anna's emotional plea to Ottavio to avenge the death of her father was a highlight of Act 1.

The WNO Orchestra's lithe playing was given a vibrant forward momentum by conductor Frederick Brown, just occasionally pushing the tempo to the point of the singers being left in his wake, but Brown's intimate knowledge of both score & libretto ensured a thrilling musical ride throughout. And the final moralising madrigal from ensemble and orchestra was simply joyous (bathed in bright white light – redemption at last!).

Anthony Bradbury

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